Rugby semi-final is a battle of the Basin

SHARE

Stand by this Saturday for the biggest local rugby game of the season. 

Arrowtown play Wakatipu in the semi-final of the eight-team Central Otago competition – the teams finished second and third, respectively, after two rounds. 

Arrowtown’s placing earned them a home semi-final, however due to frosty conditions at Jack Reid Park the derby game will be played on a more neutral venue – the Events Centre’s number two ground – at the earlier time of 2pm. 

Arrowtown will start firm favourites after an inspired White Horse Cup-winning performance in Cromwell last Saturday 

They beat a niggly Cromwell 42-5, thanks to an outstanding performance by the forward pack. 

Their only loss this year came five weeks earlier, when they lost the White Horse Cup to Upper Clutha in the boilover of the season. 

“It was a bonus that we lost it because we were struggling to field a team but a massive bonus that we got to play for it again,” Arrowtown backs coach/player Hayden Finch says. 

Since last Saturday’s game was also the last challenge of the season, Arrowtown also get to keep the cup for a second summer in a row. 

Wakatipu coach Kelvin Middleton – whose team beat bottom-placed Alexandra 55-12 last weekend – concedes his team are underdogs this Saturday. 

“Arrowtown are the team to beat out of the competition, I believe.” 

Wakatipu’s backline curse has also struck again – key back Tom Kelly rolled his ankle slipping on ice in his driveway last week and is in doubt this Saturday. 

Middleton: “Our backs have been cursed this year, I think we’ve used over 20.” 

However the coach remains positive: “We drop our standards and perform to who we’re playing, but whenever we come up against Arrowtown, the level of training during the week is completely different.” 

Recent history suggests the result will be close – the teams drew 8-all in Arrowtown in April and Arrowtown won 10-7 in Queenstown last month. 

“I think Wakatipu should have won both games,” Finch says. 

“And they have first-five Damian Petre back from injury, he makes a massive difference.” 

Finch says his own side will miss centre Drew Carmody, who suffered a serious knee injury during last weekend’s game. 

“And we’ve got a couple of issues in the forwards but I don’t want to give too much away.” 

Middleton and Finch agree on one thing – whoever wins on Saturday should be up to beating top-of-the-table Maniototo in the final a week later, assuming Maniototo beat Cromwell in the other semi.